Literature Circles vs. Guided Reading

Instructor: Joe Ricker

Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Students should show significant understanding during guided readings before they proceed into a literature circle, which requires more autonomy for student comprehension.

Crawl, Walk, Run

Learning to walk before learning to run is typically the natural order of human mobility. Crashing into walls isn't progress, unless, of course, having a human wrecking ball was the point. If holes in the sheet-rock or trips to the emergency room aren't necessary for progress, then the walk phase is certainly crucial. Like mobility, reading requires that students progress through necessary stages. Before a student is introduced to a literature circle, he or she should have experience with directed reading. Otherwise, they might hit the proverbial wall.

Guided Reading

Guided reading is essentially the crawl phase in the reading process. The intention during this phase is for students to become better at word identification and definition. For example, the difference between sole and soul. Guided reading can be broken down into three crucial parts that focus on a specific aspect of reading or word recognition that facilitates comprehension. Teachers should maintain equal involvement through each phase of directed reading to help students improve their reading skills.

*Before Reading - Teachers get students engaged and interested in what they're going to read by offering some introduction to the material. This might include a suspenseful hint as to what might happen in the literature or teachers can identify specific things they want students to look for.

*During Reading - Students read the material. They can read the material silently and individually, taking turns in small groups or as an entire class.

*After Reading - Teachers guide students through closure activities, which should emphasize the purpose and direction of student reading. For example, if one purpose for the directed reading is to expose students to new vocabulary, teachers can ask students what a specific word means and the context in which it is used in the reading. They can also ask students to write their own sentences using that word.

Literature Circles

Literature circles expand on what is learned in guided reading. They allow students more autonomy to engage with reading material. A student's level of reading ability is typically at or above grade level, and they are expected to begin engaging the material with their own reflections and thoughts on what they've read. For instance, students might predict outcomes and identify literary elements such as foreshadowing.

Literature circles are typically small groups of three to six students that have been assigned a specific reading assignment. This assignment is usually a chapter, section of chapters or a chunk of material. Students read the material, typically on their own.

The discussion portion of literature circles is when students have an opportunity to share their thoughts on the reading, as well as build on what other students have discovered about the reading. The discussion allows for more student-directed learning, and the teacher offers less guidance in their reading to allow students to develop their own interpretations of the reading.

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